UN chief in Ramallah says two-state solution cannot be abandoned
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State reverses opposition to adoption by same-sex couples

Arab League chief condemns Netanyahu settlements remark; Police to question British-American billionaire in PM fraud probe; Justice Minister says High Court degrades Israel’s Jewish character

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A girl carries a sign reading 'I have two mothers and I'm happy' as thousands protest in support of the right of LGBT couples to adopt children in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
A girl carries a sign reading 'I have two mothers and I'm happy' as thousands protest in support of the right of LGBT couples to adopt children in Tel Aviv on July 20, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Tuesday’s events as they unfolded.

Likud minister Levin slams court ruling on African migrants

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin lashes out at a Supreme Court decision placing limitations on the expulsion of African migrants and the terms of their incarceration for infiltrating into the country.

Levin, of the ruling Likud Party, calls the judges’ considerations “post-Zionist” while other ministers vowed to draft legislation that would bypass the decision.

The court ruled migrants could be expelled to third countries if they face danger in their country of origin. But it also said the state could not incarcerate them for more than 60 days in a bid to pressure them to leave.

Tens of thousands flooded into Israel from Africa, most from Eritrea and Sudan, before Israel erected a fence along its border with Egypt’s lawless Sinai Peninsula that has largely stopped the influx.

— AP

Visiting UN chief in Ramallah for talks with Palestinian officials

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is holding talks with Palestinian officials in Ramallah on the second day of a visit to Israel and the West Bank.

According to Palestinian news reports, Guterres laid a wreath of flowers on the tomb of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and toured a shelter for abused women in Ramallah.

He is expected to meet Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah later this afternoon.

German ‘Reichsbuerger’ suspect on trial for police murder

A 49-year-old German suspected of belonging to the shadowy far-right “Reichsbuerger” movement denies a charge of murder as he goes on trial for shooting a policeman during an early-morning raid on his house.

Speaking through his lawyer, Wolfgang Plan tells the court in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg that he never intended to kill anyone.

Plan also denies being affiliated with the Reichsbuerger or “Citizens of the Reich” movement, whose members include neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists and gun enthusiasts who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.

— AFP

Taliban claim Kabul bank attack that killed 5

The Taliban are claiming responsibility for a suicide attack just outside a bank in the Afghan capital of Kabul, killing at least five people.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, posts the claim on his twitter account, saying that a Taliban suicide bomber targeted military personnel who had gathered on Tuesday at the Kabul Bank to collect their salaries ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

According to Afghan officials, along with the five killed, nine people were also wounded in the attack which happened in a busy commercial area in central Kabul, not far from the US Embassy.

— AP

Relentless Harvey still drenching Houston area

The National Weather Service says rain is falling just east of Houston at a rate of 5 centimeters (2 inches) an hour.

The National Hurricane Center has said heavy rain from Harvey is forecast to worsen flooding in Southeast Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

NWS meteorologist Tawnya Evans says Harris County, home to Houston, is recording 1 centimeter (about half an inch) of rainfall each hour early this morning, and that areas east of there are seeing much more.

She says the rain could abate later in the morning but that another band of heavy rainfall will soon follow.

Harvey is expected to produce 10 to 20 additional inches (25 to 51 centimeters) or rain over the upper Texas coast and southwestern Louisiana through Thursday.

— AP

UN chief in Ramallah says two-state solution cannot be abandoned

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the only viable option as he made his first visit to the West Bank since taking office.

Guterres spoke after meeting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah following talks with Israeli leaders the previous day.

“I want to express very strongly the total commitment of the United Nations but my personal total commitment to do everything for a two-state solution to materialize,” he says. “I have said several times there is no Plan B to a two-state solution.”

— AFP

Iran dismisses ‘dreams’ of military site inspections

Iran is dismissing as “dreams” the idea that it might allow inspections of its military sites under the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers.

“What has been said about inspections of our military sites, which are completely confidential and classified, is the mere expression of dreams,” government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht says.

“We will not accept anything outside our frameworks from the Americans — especially visits to military sites,” he told a televised weekly press conference.

Ali Akbar Velayati, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s foreign policy adviser, also dismisses “sloganeering by the new US administration for domestic consumption.”

Iran “will never allow Americans or non-Americans to visit military sites which are a sensitive, important and strategic part of national security”, Velayati tells state television.

“The Americans should take the dream of visiting our military sites, using the pretext of the JCPOA (the nuclear deal) or any other pretext, to their graves.”

— AFP

Jordan slams ‘irresponsible’ decision to lift ban on MKs visiting Temple Mount

Jordan condemns the “irresponsible” decision by Prime Minister Benjamin to allow lawmakers to visit Temple Mount, saying it will increase tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The decision of the Israeli prime minister to lift the ban on visits by members of the Knesset to the Al-Aqsa Mosque is an irresponsible decision that will increase tension and lead to an escalation in this place that is holy for all Muslims around the world,” Jordanian government spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Momani says in a statement carried in the official news outlet Petra.

“We were looking forward to steps that would contribute to the international efforts, and especially the American efforts exerted to restart Palestinian-Israeli negotiations peace negotiations on the basis of a two-state solution and well-known international principles, rather than something like these contemptible and rejected measures,” he adds.

Momani calls on Netanyahu to reinstate the ban on lawmakers visiting the Temple Mount, which was put in place two years ago.

Two Likud lawmakers visited the holy site this morning after the ban was temporarily lifted.

— Dov Lieber

Protesters interrupt Shaked during speech, shout ‘thanks for the apartheid’

A group of protesters burst into the Bar Association conference and interrupt Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked during her speech.

According to reports in Hebrew-language media the protesters shouted: “Thanks for the apartheid that you are allowing, as well as the murder of civilians.”

Shaked left the stage while the protesters were removed from the hall, and later returned to finish her remarks.

Israeli ambassador returns to Cairo after 8-month hiatus

Israel’s ambassador to Egypt is returning to his post, eight months after he and his small staff returned home because of unspecified security threats.

Cairo airport officials say the ambassador, David Govrin, flew back to Cairo on Tuesday with eight staff members. The ambassador and his staff are expected to resume work from the envoy’s suburban Cairo home.

The Israeli Embassy in central Cairo has been closed since protesters stormed it in 2011.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment. The airport officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Prior to their departure in mid-December, the ambassador and his staff routinely flew home on Thursday and returned to their post on Sunday.

— AP

Liberman: Illegal West Bank building ‘sabotaging’ settlement enterprise

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman comes out against unauthorized Jewish building in the West Bank.

“Illegal Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria sabotages the settlement enterprise and is unnecessary when in practice there is legal construction,” he tells reporters at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.

He went on to criticize settler extremists in the West Bank as “causing more damage than anti-Israel activists.”

— Jacob Magid

UN Security Council expected to discuss North Korea

The UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting today on North Korea’s firing of a ballistic missile over Japan.

The closed-door discussion is expected in the late afternoon or early evening, after a scheduled discussion on peacekeeping.

US and Japanese representatives said they and their South Korean counterparts requested the North Korea discussion. It comes less than a month after the Security Council approved its toughest-yet sanctions on North Korea. They include bans on exporting coal, iron, lead, and fish and seafood products.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley says the council will discuss “what else is left to do.” She said “something serious has to happen,” but didn’t specify what.

North Korea recently requested a Security Council discussion about US-South Korean military drills it considers a rehearsal for invasion.

In a first, North Korea earlier today fired a ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear payload that flew over US ally Japan and splashed into the northern Pacific Ocean.

— AP

PA urges US to intervene after Netanyahu’s settlement remarks

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, denounces Netanyahu’s comments and urges the US to intervene.

“This is an Israeli message to the US administration, which sought through an important tour in the area to do something in order to rescue the peace process,” he says.

“We call upon the US administration to deal with these provocations,” which he said hinder US peace efforts and are “an attempt to return things to square one.”

— AP

White House downplays Netanyahu’s vow to continue settlement buidling

A senior White House official plays down Netanyahu’s vow to never uproot any West Bank settlements.

“It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue,” the official says, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “Our focus is on continuing our conversations with both parties and regional leaders to work toward facilitating a deal that factors in all substantive issues.”

Netanyahu’s comments yesterday come days after a White House envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt were in the region trying to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

Mandelblit: The right to demonstrate is a basic right in a democracy

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit defends demonstrations as a “basic right in a democracy that no one can dispute.”

At the Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv, Mandelblit says the corruption investigations into Netanyahu were being coordinated with police and that “the only considerations are the evidence and public interest. If there is sufficient basis for an indictment, it will be filed, if not, it will be shelved.”

In recent weeks, hundreds of of protesters gathered in front of Mandelblit’s home on Saturday evenings to demand he indict Netanyahu on corruption charges.

Evacuation ordered as levee breached south of Houston

Floodwaters have breached a levee south of the city of Houston, officials say, urging residents to leave the sector immediately.

“The levee at Columbia Lakes has been breached!!” the Brazoria County government tweets on its official feed. “GET OUT NOW!!”

The Columbia lakes area lies south of Houston, large parts of which remain underwater four days after Harvey made landfall on the US Gulf Coast, triggering widespread flooding.

— AFP

Lebanon rejects any changes to UN peacekeeping mandate

Lebanon is calling for a UN peacekeeping force’s mandate to be renewed without changes so that it can continue working to prevent hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah terrorist group.

Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil conveyed Lebanon’s position to representatives of the UN Security Council’s permanent members this afternoon.

The peacekeeping mission known as UNIFIL is up for renewal when its mandate expires August 31. Israel and the US are pressing for improvements to the force to combat what they say is the spread of illegal arms to Hezbollah-dominated southern Lebanon.

The UNIFIL commander in Lebanon and the Lebanese government reject the claims. Bassil said renewing the force’s mandate is paramount to the country’s security. He pointed to what he said were daily Israeli violations of UN resolutions and Lebanese sovereignty.

— with AP

Finland releases 2 suspects in knife attack probe

Finnish authorities say they have released two of the four suspects held in custody following this month’s stabbing attack that killed two and wounded eight.

All four had been placed in pre-trial detention last week on suspicion of murder and attempted murder with terrorist intent but two of them were later cleared, a statement from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said.

“There is no longer any reason to suspect them of these offences,” it says.

Of the two left in custody, one is the main suspect — 22-year-old Abderrahman Bouanane, a Moroccan national who was shot in the thigh by police minutes after the attack.

A minute's silence for the victims of a stabbing attack is held at Turku Market Square in Turku, Finland, August 20, 2017. (Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva via AP)
A minute’s silence for the victims of a stabbing attack is held at Turku Market Square in Turku, Finland, August 20, 2017. (Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva via AP)

— AFP

Israeli judoka takes bronze at world championships

Tal Flicker wins the bronze medal in the under 66 kg category at the World Judo Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Flicker comes in behind Russia’s Mikhail Pulyaev and Japan’s Hifumi Abe.

US targets Islamic State financing emir with sanctions

The United States is imposing sanctions on an Islamic State group official the US says has served as a top financing chief for the extremist group.

The Treasury Department says Salim Mustafa Muhammad al-Mansur has raised money for the cause since 2009, when he was a commander for the al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq that evolved into IS. The US accuses him of funneling Iraqi dinars into the northern city of Mosul in 2014 and laundering money in 2015.

The US says in 2016, Mansur sold crude oil for IS and that he’s been active in 2017 as a “finance emir” despite having moved to Turkey.

The Treasury Department is deeming Mansur a specially designated global terrorist. The sanctions freeze any US assets and block Americans from dealing with him.

— AP

Trump arrives in Texas to review Harvey damage

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrive in Texas to review the deadly devastation wrought by monster storm Harvey.

Trump lands in the coastal town of Corpus Christi which bore the full brunt of Harvey’s fury when it made landfall on Friday night as a Category Four hurricane.

The president had originally been scheduled to travel to the state capital Austin after a quick tour of Corpus Christi.

But speaking on board Air Force One, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that his schedule was still in flux because of the continued poor weather in Texas.

“The president wants to be very cautious about making sure that any activity doesn’t disrupt any of the recovery efforts that are still ongoing, which is the reason for the locations we are going here today,” she told reporters.

People walk down a flooded street as they evacuate their homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
People walk down a flooded street as they evacuate their homes after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

— AFP

Justice Minister says High Court degrades Israel’s Jewish character

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked slams the High Court of Justice, saying its ruling yesterday barring indefinitely jailing illegal migrants who refuse deportation degrades Israel’s Jewish character.

Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference of the Israel Bar Association, Shaked says that yesterday’s decision “did not see the preservation of a Jewish majority [in Israel] as a value worth being weighed.”

The High Court allowed Israel to continue with its controversial practice of deporting illegal migrants to an unnamed third country, but ruled the government cannot jail those who refuse to go for more than 60 days.

Hours after the ruling, Shaked announced plans to introduce legislation allowing Israel to deport migrants even without their consent.

— Jacob Magid

Police to question British-American billionaire in corruption probe

Police investigators are preparing to fly to the UK to question British-American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik in connection to Case 2000, one of the corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Channel 2, police are expected to ask Blavatnik if Netanyahu privately intervened in his corporation’s purchase of Channel 10 in 2015.

Case 2000, as it has been dubbed by police, involves a suspected quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes in which the two seemed to discuss an illicit agreement that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

State reverses opposition to same-sex adoption

The Welfare Ministry reverses its opposition to same-sex couples adopting children in Israel, less than a month after announcing the controversial decision.

According to Channel 2 news, the reversal was filed to the High Court of Justice in response to a petition filed to the court by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers and the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement.

The report says today’s reversal comes at the request of Welfare Minister Haim Katz.

After the decision was announced last month, thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest what they said was a discriminatory policy.

Arab League chief condemns Netanyahu settlements remark

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit “strongly denounces” remarks Prime Minister Netanyahu who said yesterday that he would not evacuate any further Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“Abul Gheit considers this stance, which is utterly rejected, as something that cannot come from a person who seeks peace,” the statement says.

Yesterday, at an event celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in the West Bank — Netanyahu told a crowd of thousands that “we are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”

His speech came days after he met with a high-level White House delegation seeking to bring the sides back to the negotiating table.

Bennett urges Israelis to help Jews in flood-stricken Houston

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett calls on Israelis to help Jewish community in flood-stricken Houston.

In a Facebook post, Bennett says that “for years the Jews of Houston were there for us; now we can be there for them.”

The minister is urging Israelis to contribute to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund set up by the Jewish Federations of North America.

Our brothers in Houston, Texas, need our help!More than 30,000 Jews live in the areas affected by floods, and we have…

Posted by Naftali Bennett on Tuesday, 29 August 2017

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UN chief in Ramallah says two-state solution cannot be abandoned

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the only viable option as he made his first visit to the West Bank since taking office.

Guterres spoke after meeting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah following talks with Israeli leaders the previous day.

“I want to express very strongly the total commitment of the United Nations but my personal total commitment to do everything for a two-state solution to materialize,” he says. “I have said several times there is no Plan B to a two-state solution.”

— AFP